If you’re a fan of good Japanese horrors, take a moment to learn more about Fatal Frame – a video game series focused on sending the ghosts away by using a special type of camera.

Welcome to a comprehensive look at the Fatal Frame series, where we’ll talk you through all major Fatal Frame releases in chronological order, pointing out the good and the bad of all games, highlighting the important features and memorable moments, and sharing some tips with newcomers to the franchise. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.

You can find on G2A.COM: Fatal Frame Games.

Why Playing Fatal Frame Games in Order Enhances the Experience

More often than not, whenever you’re about to pick a new video game series to play, it’s worth it to play it in chronological order, starting from the very first released game and going through all of them one by one in order of launch date, from the oldest to the most recent ones.

It’s not as important for the series that are not focused on the story too much, but in the case of Fatal Frame, it’s strongly advised to experience all games in the right order.

Fatal Frame (2001) trailer

Playing Fatal Frame in accordance with the chronology of release dates will allow you to see how the games evolved over the years and how the early releases influenced the future of the series. It will also allow you to observe the changes and differences in gameplay and, most importantly, connect the dots when it comes to the story and the lore.

The only exception to that would be Fatal Frame IV, as it’s a separate, self-contained thing with no ties to the other Fatal Frame games in terms of the story or characters. It’s still worth playing to see how the series changed, compare all the differences and point out similarities, or perhaps even find some potential connections to other games everyone else somehow happened to miss.

However, if you’re short on time or you can’t find the 4th game anywhere, don’t feel bad if you eventually decide to skip it and go straight to the final Fatal Frame title from 2014.

Evolution of the Fatal Frame Series

The core gameplay in all Fatal Frame games is very similar and will have you playing mostly as young girls as they’re trying to investigate certain cases related to evil spirits and escape various haunted places, preferably in one piece.

Equipped with a mysterious Camera Obscura that allows one to see the unseen, you’ll be able to perform exorcisms on restless souls to send evil away, bringing you closer to your objective and increasing your chances of survival in exceedingly hostile environments.

Fighting ghosts with Camera Obscura is unique in and of itself and requires a short while to get used to; the sooner, the better, as that’s a huge part of all FF games and, in fact, the one and only line of defense. Instead of running away from the nightmares, you’ll have to face them head-on.

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003) trailer

The basics are easy, as all you’ve got to do is take a picture of the ghost to inflict damage on him and repeat the process until it’s gone. Things get trickier once you try utilizing shutter chances and fatal frames during encounters – both terms refer to the perfect timing of the shots.

If you take a picture within a specific short time window, when the ghost is vulnerable, you’ll be able to deal a much more impactful blow to their health points.

The developers behind the Fatal Frame series made sure that each game feels unique in some way. As you start playing each next game, you’ll notice all the little changes and adjustments in gameplay mechanics, but to really appreciate all the differences and new solutions that were meant to make the experience more enjoyable, it would be best to play the games from the oldest to the most recent ones. To help you pick the correct titles to try next, here’s a list of Fatal Frame games in chronological order:

  1. Fatal Frame (2001)
  2. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003)
  3. Fatal Frame III: The Tormented (2005)
  4. Fatal Frame IV: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (2008)
  5. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (2014)

Common Misconceptions about the Fatal Frame Series

Whenever you’re faced with an option to give a new video game series a try, you may want to check the reviews first to see if it’s worth it. After all, there are tons of great games to play and our time among the living isn’t infinite, so it’s only natural for us to want to pick the things that we find the most enjoyable. The reviews, however, may give you a false impression about what Fatal Frame games are and what they’re not.

There are some misconceptions about the series that should be clarified to give you a better understanding of what you’re getting into.

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented (2005) trailer

The most important thing is that even though Fatal Frame titles are first and foremost horror games, they’re not your usual horrors. The scary atmosphere is on point and the Japanese folklore inspiration adds a lot to the overall horror experience. However, as the main gameplay mechanic revolves around exorcising the ghosts and looking the evil in the eye, rather than running away, you may feel like the immersion breaks.

The protagonists are usually normal, young girls, without any kind of superpowers, which would make one think we’re dealing with characters that possess traits such as vulnerability, sensitivity, and defenselessness; characters that would scream the moment they see a ghost. But it’s not the case in Fatal Frame.

The main characters are able to effectively stand toe to toe with malevolent spirits and send them away with the power of a few clicks of the magic camera.

As such, the combat part and the lack of sense of real danger take away from the horror experience. The games can be really scary at times, but you’ll be more noticeably more frightened when there’s nothing going on while expecting something to happen, rather than when there’s actually a ghost coming after you.

Personal Experiences and Expert Advice

Fatal Frame series serves as a unique approach to the horror genre, where instead of running away from nightmares, you’re encouraged to face them directly and look the ghosts right in the eye.

This kind of gameplay requires getting used to it, but the games don’t hold the player’s hand, which makes it tricky to figure out how stuff works. Here’s a bunch of useful tips that should give you the upper hand.

Fatal Frame IV: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (2008) trailer

Just because you have to exorcise the ghosts by taking photos of them, doesn’t mean you should stand in place while the ghost approaches you. Once it gets too close, you’ll get hit. As such, remember to position yourself correctly, and don’t hesitate to run and create some space between you and the target before you get back to the photo mode.

The camera is useful as it can see things that can’t be normally seen. However, this means that you should constantly use the camera to look around and see if there are enemies nearby. Stay alert and don’t get caught off-guard – it’s easy to forget that ghosts are nigh invisible if you look at them without using the camera.

Manage your resources smartly. Try to conserve film and healing items even if you think you’ve got more than enough. This applies only to the earlier entries in the franchise, though; the later games are significantly easier and consumable items are much more common to find.

Learn the ghost patterns. Each type of ghost has a predictable set of movements; if you memorize it, you’ll have much less trouble with evading enemy attacks and, most importantly, executing fatal frames that deal massive damage.

Understanding Fatal Frame’s Cultural Influence

Fatal Frame games are largely inspired by Japanese folklore, legends, and culture, making them feel all the more real and frightening. However, some of the inspirations may be difficult to spot for those who aren’t particularly versed in Japanese history and tradition.

The stories in Fatal Frame games often revolve around some kind of failed rituals that were meant to seal the evil or bring protection but instead ended up making things worse and bringing disaster.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (2014) trailer

The sole concept of rituals comes from the Shinto religion – a polytheistic and animistic set of beliefs centered around all kinds of supernatural divinities and spirits called kami. Whenever you’re talking about Shinto rituals, you’re usually thinking about harmless ceremonies, such as priests waving wands, making gestures, dancing, and singing prayers.

However, as unsettling as it may sound, the concept of human sacrifices is not as strange and foreign to Japanese history as it may sound. It may not be happening these days anymore, but it’s not difficult to find the records of such events being practiced in the distant past.

Throwing people into the rivers to calm down the waters and protect the village from the flood or turning people into the so-called living pillars, or hitobashira, by burying them alive in places where new buildings were to be constructed to bring good luck and safety; the latter we saw in Fatal Frame and it turns out it all has its roots in the real history.


It’s never too late to get into the Fatal Frame games as they provide quite a unique experience that’s hard to find in other Japanese horror games.

The need to face the ghosts directly may take away from the horror experience but on the other hand, the games build a frightening atmosphere that draws inspiration from the real-world history of Japan; even if the ghosts themselves aren’t particularly scary, everything in between the encounters can send shivers down the spine and will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

There’s a reason why people still return to Fatal Frame games, even to the original one from 2001, but to understand it, you’d have to give the franchise a go yourself.